Regardless of where you live or do business, when it comes to fines for unnecessary alarms, there is no perfect formula to determine the price tag. Over the years though, SIAC has come to some conclusions that should help. Here are some guiding principles.
First, fines should deter bad behavior. If the penalty is $10, the perpetrators may not do anything to prevent or fix the problem. Instead, they just pay the fine and move on. Meaningful deterrence requires a hit to the pocket.
Second, fines should not be outside the pay range of an average citizen who owns an alarm system. While this is fairly self-evident, at the same time, it bears emphasizing: If you charge $250 for the first violation, the desire to improve alarm management practices may backfire because customers will be scared off by this price tag, and not install an alarm system to begin with.
Third, know your community. Smaller towns should probably have a lower fine structure. Well-to-do communities are more likely to support higher fines. By knowing the social structure of the jurisdiction, you can tailor your approach to be most successful.
Fourth, include an appeals process. People should have the opportunity to appeal a fine or take a course to mitigate it.
Finally, fines can only be taken so far before they lose their effectiveness. Residential customers just won’t pay the fine, which then makes collection an issue. For a high profile business like a bank, they may look at it as a cost of doing business or cost of police response. That’s why we advocate for an upper limit on the number of fines and dollar amounts. When they hit that threshold, law enforcement response should cease until the problem is corrected.
SIAC believes fines should start on the first or second unnecessary alarm sounding in a given year. The fine itself can be a bit lower on the first violation, but it should subsequently rise to get the attention of the home or business that has a problem. Our desire is to dramatically reduce unwanted calls to police for dispatch. With a sound fine system in place, effective enforcement and penalties that change behavior, we will continue to see reductions in unnecessary alarms, when coupled with other best alarm management practices. Contact us for more information at http://www.siacinc.org.